All for Suffrage, Part 1

Susan B. Anthony’s family members were all for suffrage, each in his or her own way. Some supported voting rights by actually casting ballots, while others supported campaigns for African-Americans and women to vote. She had Continue reading

This week in History: John Brown at Harpers Ferry

John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry shook the Anthony family’s roots when on this day in 1859 he broke into a federal arsenal in Virginia and was captured.

Lucy and Daniel Anthony had raised Continue reading

The Anthonys on President Lincoln

On April 14, 1865 President Lincoln suffered a fatal gunshot wound from John Wilkes Booth. The news of his death reached D.R. Anthony, his wife Annie, and his sister Susan where she was visiting them in Leavenworth.

In her diary, Susan recorded that they attended different churches to hear the ministers’ pulpit commentary on the assassination. It’s likely that they felt the same kind of shock and dismay that mark our era’s reception of the news about President Kennedy’s assassination or the fall of the Twin Towers.

D.R. must have felt a special regret because he had known Lincoln personally and later taken a special interest in his safety. Lincoln spoke in Leavenworth during his presidential campaign trail in December 1859, and that night traded stories with Anthony and other friends, propping their feet up and feeding the fire as they swapped stories.

Two years later, after Anthony had fiercely defended Kansas against proslavery forces, he was invited to guard President Lincoln in the White House at the start of the Civil War. The city of Washington was isolated, surrounded by Confederate troops, and rumors spread that Lincoln would be abducted. Thanks for a shrewd intimidation campaign by Lincoln’s guards, rebel troops thought there were far more of “those damned Kansans,” many of whom had shocked the nation by fighting alongside the notorious John Brown. You can read more about this threat to Lincoln on my 3/16/16 post, “Saving Lincoln from Abduction.”

Ironically, Booth had performed in Leavenworth on the same stage where Lincoln had admonished Kansans not to resort to violence but to solve matters by voting.

 

 

 

Posse Hunts John Brown

Why was D.R. Anthony so fiercely abolitionist? Events such as the following would have fueled his anger. Today’s post gives us a typical example of how proslavery forces treated John Brown, an antislavery man whom  Anthony revered and probably knew. (D.R.’s brother Merritt had fought with Brown several years earlier in southern Kansas.)

Living only 25 miles away from the following tense encounter between a proslavery posse and  Brown, Anthony might  have stood with the guards who protected the famous hero. Even if Anthony didn’t, he certainly would have followed the news with as much anxiety as did New Hampshire  emigrant Julia Louisa Lovejoy, whose letter back east gives us this riveting account.

For the death of John Brown, the Missouri governor and others offered $5,500. Lured by this “bait,” Lovejoy reported, a pro-slavery posse headed by Marshal J.P. Wood  tracked “our champion” (Brown) to a cabin where the abolitionist holed up with a dozen African-Americans.

This cabin he had strongly barricaded, and told his pursuers “he would never yield, neither would he be taken alive.” The Marshal and his force surrounded the cabin and ordered Brown to “surrender!” Brown replied, “Come and take me.” The officer dared not undertake the job, and one hundred more like him could not capture those indomitable spirits that well knew what would follow if they were taken prisoners.1

A stand-off occurred. Brown’s group, armed with Sharpes rifles, was guarded by a company of twenty-five antislavery supporters. Giving voice to the bodyguard, Lovejoy wrote, “Take care, sir, if one gray hair on that venerable head is singed, your whole party will be riddled with balls!”

The Marshal’s posse sent for reinforcements to Atchison (about four miles away) and rumored that two cannons would soon arrive to explode the cabin. In an oddly turned phrase, Lovejoy wrote that United States Army troops who engaged in “pretended pursuit” seem to have sufficiently distracted the posse, during which time:

Brown sallied forth and took three of the Atchison men prisoners (one of them, it is affirmed, he recognized as the miscreant who shot his own son, F. Brown, at the “Ossawottamie battle.”) He also took four of their horses that they had secreted in the timber, and then with his freed slaves and party pulled for Iowa, taking prisoners and horses along with him!

Thus Brown escaped from Kansas in February 1859, just eight months before his fateful raid on the arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, WV. In a summary of this western event, Lovejoy correctly predicted the manner of Brown’s death, saying, “We fear now that Brown and his party will be intercepted by an overwhelming force, but he cannot be captured alive.” “

Photo courtesy of Kansas Historical Society

  1. Bell, Sarah. “Lovejoy, Julia Louisa” Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed Mar, 31, 2017 at http://www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/encyclopedia/lovejoy-julia-louisa

 

 

The Jury’s Still Out on John Brown

John Brown, abolitionist. Used with permission from the Kansas History Project

John Brown, abolitionist. Used with permission from the Kansas History Project

It’s one thing to admire someone and quite another to like him or her. This reality slapped me in the face when I visited the homestead of John Brown near Lake Placid, New York.

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Daring Friends of Merritt and D.R. Anthony

Here are the men who freed John Doy from a Missouri prison. Doy is seated. Used with permission from the Kansas History Project

Here are the men who freed John Doy from a Missouri prison. Doy is seated. Used with permission from the Kansas History Project

Merritt Anthony, like his brother Daniel Read Anthony (D.R.), put aside the pacifism that is often associated with Quakerism and took up arms to free the slaves. In doing so, he joined one of America’s most radical and controversial opponents of slavery.

John Brown went to Kansas in 1855 and immediately stirred things up. He not only freed many African-Americans and sent them along the Underground Railroad, but he also, at one point, stated that he had “liberated 150 cattle from slavery” in Missouri. He soon became a target of southern sympathizers, and the attacks went back and forth. His massacre of proslavery men at Potawatomie Creek in 1856 and his brave stand against southern sympathizers at Osawatomie went a long way to earning his adopted state the moniker “Bleeding Kansas.” Daniel Read Anthony also pitched into that fray, but more on that later.

Merritt Anthony first took up residence in Osawatomie, about fifty miles south of Leavenworth, where D.R. settled. In between the two cities lies the city of Lawrence, an abolitionist-built enclave which D.R. helped to found in 1854. John Brown inadvertently caused much suffering to a friend of D.R. named John Doy.

Doy was a doctor from Rochester, NY. With D.R., he was among the first easterners to arrive in Kansas with the Emigrant Aid Company. Unlike D.R., he settled in Lawrence permanently. In 1859, the citizens of Lawrence decided that it was dangerous for ex-slaves to remain in the area and began escorting them to safer places. Brown agreed to lead one group and Doy another, sharing the men who went along as bodyguards. Unfortunately, Brown decided that his group was in greater danger than Doy’s, and departed first, taking all the guards with him.

Despite the shortage of guards, John Doy and his twenty-five year-old son Charles set off with their refugees and were beset by border ruffians from Missouri. The African-Americans were sent to the slave market and the Doys were taken to stand trial after spending months in subhuman conditions in jail. Charles was freed but John was sentenced for sixty-five years and moved to a more secure prison. In a daring escape, Charles and nine other northerners from Lawrence tricked the jailer and freed Doy. These valiant rescuers became known as the “Immortal Ten.”

Unfortunately, Charles’ encounter with mortality came even sooner than his father’s. About a year after the Immortal Ten became famous for their exploits, Charles Doy died at the hands of proslavery sympathizers. Soon after that John Brown, who put this father and son at so much risk, was hanged as an abolitionist martyr.

These principled, daring men were the associates, and probably heroes, of Merritt and D.R. Anthony.